Lend me your ears….

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As an aspiring author I am constantly devouring as much literature as humanly possible in an effort to continually expose myself to the endless world of words. Through my constant exposure I have read, listened to, and watched more wonderful stories than I could ever attempt to list here, and I am truly blessed to have had a chance to devour such an array of writing. Obviously in my journey through the wondrous world of words I occasionally find myself let down by an author’s craft; feeling jaded when a novel falls apart in the final chapters, or when a song or poem completely misses its mark. But then, every so often you stumble across a piece of writing that completely transcends itself above its author, genre, and medium and ignites a fire inside your heart and mind, leaving you physically and emotionally stunned at its beauty.

They say that inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of sources, and as someone who is known for disappearing into my own imagination at the most impractical of times I know this better than most. – If you need an example of this I recently had a massage to help with a sporting injury. While most people on a massage table try to relax and enjoy the experience, I spent the entire time crafting the blueprints of a murder mystery tale that commences with a man meeting his grisly end on the masseuse’s table. – But recently I was left stunned and quite literally lost for words by the incredibly beautiful, moving and downright brutal lyrics of a metalcore band.

For those of you that don’t know me personally I am a huge fan of music that falls under the banner of metal/hardcore/metalcore, and can regularly be found lost in a cacophony of manic drums, heavy guitar breakdowns, and lyrics growled, screamed and sung over rip roaring sonic compositions. But contrary to popular belief I don’t indulge these forms of music because I am full of angst or anger (at least not anymore), or because I am different or weird. I do so because popular culture no longer values true musical and lyrical genius anymore, yet some of the bands that I listen to have the most powerful, emotive, and downright beautiful lyrics I have ever heard. These days true musical genius isn’t found on the radio or on those bullshit talent search shows; it’s found in bars, mosh pits and garages.

The song that serves as the catalyst for this latest post is from Sydney based metalcore outfit Northlane. The lyrics penned and sung by vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes are among the most honest and emotive I’ve ever come across, and one of the reasons that I have chosen to blog about them is that through the bone crunching breakdowns and guttural screams Fitipaldes strikes a chord with this particular writer. With lyrics as open and unrestrained as ‘Here I am with all my insecurities, and imperfections, crying out to a world that just won’t listen’ Fitipaldes words really hit home. As a writer relentlessly trying to break into the industry and see my work in print there are times when it feels as though no matter how much blood, sweat and tears I pour into my craft (through blogs, novels, novellas, university essays, and writing competitions) I seem to be faced with a literary world that just won’t listen. I’m faced with agents, publishers, and fellow literary hopefuls who refuse to pay attention; who refuse to let anyone of the hundreds of thousands of amazing writers across the globe break into the limelight that they so truly deserve.

When Fitipaldes bears his soul to the world he asks his listeners to ‘lend him their ears, their hearts and their minds and discover what’s missing’ he exposes his strengths and vulnerabilities, his hopes, dreams, and shortcomings to a world that so often chooses to judge rather than understand. In many respects the manner in which he approaches his own failings and ambitions is similar to what I try and do here every single time I post. When I first started this blog I was a mess. My head was full of so much negative shit that it was literally impeding my ability to write or even function. My entire outlook on life was warped, relationships suffered, finances failed, and my self-confidence hit an all-time low. But through exposing myself, through allowing myself to become the test subject for the age old sink or swim philosophy, I’ve learned that not only that I can swim, but I can do so with the best of them.

Nowadays I’m emotionally, physically, and linguistically stronger than I have ever been, and the whole reason behind my transformation is my blog. Through taking a leap of faith and opening up my soul for the world to see, I’ve not only healed old wounds, but also learned some truly amazing things about myself and pushed my writing to new levels in the process. My original inspiration for creating this was to overcome obstacles, yet as I’ve grown and progressed as a writer my catalysts have changed to the point where now something as wonderful as a song, a picture, a quote or sporadic thought can trigger my desire to create.

Inspiration really does come from the most unlikely places. When I first started listening to heavy music I never thought that I’d end up blogging about my love for it. But then I never expected to stumble across a writer so honest as to acknowledge when he is ‘pouring his heart and mind into a world that doesn’t listen.’ Yet here we are.

So with that being said, my hope for all of you out there who read this blog each and every post is simple. For those who have stuck with me from the very beginning, and those who are reading my words for the first time, I hope from the bottom of my heart that my words have managed to inspire just one of you. For if it has, than my purpose as a writer is justified, and all the countless hours I’ve poured into this blog have been worth it. If just one person in this world listens, than that’s more than this writer could have ever hoped for when he first started out.

Smokescreens

In my humble opinion one of man kind’s greatest flaws is our constant acceptance to settle for the mundane, or for far less than we are truly capable of achieving. Sometimes our greatest failings are our own shortsightedness and inability to break free of the shackles that we cast upon ourselves through fear, uncertainty, and downright laziness. Right across the world right now men, women, and children of all races are pondering over their own dreams and ambitions, wondering why they always seem to fall agonisingly short of their ultimate objectives. Their stories will always be inherently different; the composition of their life experiences and their basic genetic makeup will always be uniquely their own, but their fundamental goals and ambitions as members of the human race will always revolve around one basic function. They want success. Mankind as a species yearns to succeed.

Now success comes in many shapes and forms. To a mother success means watching her children grow into respectable members of society; for a business mogul success is accumulating a sizable portfolio of companies and collateral. And for someone like me, success is the elated feeling of having anyone read my work and deem it worthy. I experience success every single time I update this blog. I feel an incredible sense of elation each time my Iphone pings with an email to say that I have amassed another follower, or that someone likes a singular post. To me success is measured in the knowledge of knowing that my creative workings are ever so slowly weeding their way into the worlds of blogging and publishing through one reader’s mind at a time.

But sadly for all my minor successes, I must say that I am becoming increasingly complacent with my craft. Each time I accomplish a small achievement on my path towards becoming a published author I feel a breathtaking rush of adrenaline and a renewed sense of focus towards my craft. But once that wanes it can be incredibly difficult to return to the mundane act of waking at 5:30am to write in the pre-dawn light of my lounge room once more. In my current workplace I would refer to this as the Yo-yo effect; when mankind notices a positive emotional or physiological change within them they are at their most vulnerable point in their journey towards success. The Yo-yo effect is what happens when complacency kicks in and you take your foot off the gas pedal, and all your hard work and dedication unravels, leaving you right back where you started.

So why does this happen to us? Why do we aim so high, only to shrug our shoulders and throw in the towel not because we are unable or undeserving of the right to achieve, but because we are unwilling to strive onward to what we are truly capable of? Why is it that the vast majority of us will never achieve what our heart desires purely because we refuse to cast aside the metaphorical shackles we bind ourselves with? The truth is that many of us do so because of fear. We fear that we are undeserving of our dreams, and we fear that once we achieve everything our heart desires there will be nothing left for us to pine for. But rather than acknowledge this we hide behind the idea that it is simply too hard for us to succeed.

Shit, I’ve said it to myself so many times over my life that one could almost be forgiven for believing the world is a terribly abrasive and bitter place. It’s too hard, or I don’t have the time, or any variation of that utter bullshit is exactly the kind of tripe that I’ve said whenever I felt like giving up. However I’m now coming to the realisation that these answers were nothing but smokescreens to hide the fact that I was giving up simply because I told myself that I didn’t have the will power to succeed.

Thanks to a never ending torrent of talent contests and instant fame programs assembled by the mass media, one can be forgiven for viewing themselves unworthy of success if we don’t stumble upon it immediately. There were times when writers, athletes, singers, actors, and whoever else were forced to toil away endlessly at their craft until it was perfected before they even had a shot a finding fame. Now however, in a society where everything has an expiry date of five minutes we expect immediate success and notoriety in everything that we do. We view ourselves unworthy or simply not good enough if we’re not the one per cent of people who blindly stumble into success or strike it rich.

So where has this whole rant stemmed from? Recently I awoke early to write, only to find myself seriously contemplating returning to the warmth of my bed over the laborious task of creating something with a mind recently shocked out of sleep. It would have been so easy to give up, to hit the snooze button on my alarm and try again the next day. But I forced myself to get up; I forced myself to sit in front of the computer and at least try to produce something. It didn’t go well. I wrote about two hundred words before I started sifting through the internet, searching for nothing in particular as a way to kill time and procrastinate rather than remain focused. But thankfully I stumbled across an article entitled Famous Failures and suddenly I began to understand the difference between the vast majority of us who fail and those who transcend above the odds and ultimately succeed.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for ‘lacking imagination.’ Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor after being labelled ‘not fit for television.’ And Albert Einstein’s teachers are famously quoted as saying that the boy ‘would never amount to much.’ Yet every single one of these famous failures managed to rise above the doubt surrounding their abilities and become the very best in their respective fields. Their achievements aren’t the result of luck, but rather the result of hard work and a steeled determination that saw them push themselves beyond what was thought to be possible and overcome the adversity standing in the way of their success.

Every single one of us faces adversity, but the names above have proven that adversity is nothing more than a hurdle on our own individual races towards greatness. The only real limitation that we ever truly face is the limitations of our minds eye; the limitations that we place upon ourselves. The negative energy we project upon ourselves or the complacency we feel when we begin to scratch the surface of our own greatness really is the only thing standing between us and achieving more than we could ever imagine.

So with that being said, it’s time to cast aside the momentary complacency plaguing my mind and begin to immerse myself more fully in my writing once again. The minor successes that I have experienced up to this point in my professional development are accomplishments to be celebrated, but they are also just the beginning of a very long list of achievements and goals that still lie before me. To use the one of the world’s most quoted clichés; Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m not going to become an overnight success with my writing and I’m ok with that. When I do succeed all the toiling, and the early mornings and late nights spent slaving over an illuminated screen and a notepad will be worth the wait.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth…

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Wait. Slow down a second. Did this post really just begin with a nod to one of history’s greatest play writes? Do the illustrious words of King Lear really belong on the landing page of a blog based primarily around depression and my own artistic shortcomings? To quote an artist as prolific as the great William Shakespeare on this page seems to almost degrade the celebrated writer. But nevertheless for lack of a better title I thought that King Lear’s acid tongued dialogue directed at his thankless daughters seemed somewhat appropriate for where we currently find ourselves.

So why does Shakespeare’s delicately constructed dialect resonate so strongly with my own writing right now? Well… I think that I’ve been plagiarised. I think that someone has taken my works laden with my own flourishes and imperfections and tried to reproduce them and label the knockoffs as their own. I know that it sounds rather arrogant to assume that a writer would want to take what I have created and re-brand it as their own creative masterpieces, but sometimes shit just doesn’t add up and one can only wonder just how another aspiring author can suddenly produce a blog entry so similar to my own. The idea of plagiarism like this is a rather intriguing concept, and one that forces a writer to seriously contemplate the ramifications of such a dastardly deed.

If I have indeed been plagiarised then I certainly wouldn’t be the first author to ever have this happen, and I’m pretty damn sure that I won’t be the last. J.K. Rowling must have inspired plenty of Harry Potter knockoffs; and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code would have undoubtedly sent writer’s desires to produce historical thrillers into overdrive. But what am I to make of this potential copycat? Am I supposed to feel jaded like King Lear? Am I to feel as though I have been betrayed by a thankless child? Or would a better title for this post have been the finest form of flattery?

Because there really is no finer form of flattery than to have a fellow writer attempt to reproduce your work. If a writer has actively gone out of their way to indulge themselves in the stylistic nuances that make your own pieces unique, then surely that means you are doing something right? Doesn’t it?

The article in question arrived in my emails a few days ago. I follow quite a few blogs and my Iphone is always pinging with arrival of another author’s works. But with this particular page I seem to have developed a bit of an unspoken mutual agreement with the aspiring author who produced it; it’s nothing too complicated. He follows my blog and I follow his. We have never met, never spoken, and in all honesty we never will. But we have found each other in the immense cosmos of online web logging through our mutual love of writing and desire to find acclaim.

This young writer is good. His pieces have always been fetching and unique. But our writing styles have always been inherently different. -Which would probably explain why his audience is roughly 50 times the size of my own- But recently he released a piece that was rather unexpected, unprecedented, and so unlike anything he had ever produced. Suddenly I found myself reading a post that had me seriously questioning whether or not I had been given a guest editors spot on another blog. I am fully aware that I still sound incredibly childish here. How arrogant it is for me to assume that anyone would wish to rip off the deranged fragments of thought that clutter the homepage of this site! But what if I’m right? What if I am King Lear and I’m being unwillingly usurped by an author who wishes to claim my workings as his own?

The truth is that I’ll never know for sure whether my writing has been reproduced. All I can base my theories off is the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I read an (unusually) sloppy post that sounded striking similar to my own story. And the strange look of my partner as she came to the same realisation and asked if I had indeed been the catalyst behind the unexpected entry. But I guess that is the world we live in. So often in life we are overlooked or outshone at something that makes us truly unique. It can be easy to take what you do for granted and to never find the recognition you deserve for your talents. It can be easy to give up and never push that little bit harder in order to be noticed. Yet feel defeated when a lessor opponent finds notoriety for doing so.

The young man who reads my wares and (possibly) feels the need to reinterpret them and label them as his own truly is the thankless child that King Lear spoke of. He has taken my ideas and idiocies and claimed them as his own. But rather than feel anger towards him I can’t help but feel like there’s a lesson to be learned here. I now firmly believe that when our talents are laid out and compared, I am the stronger writer; however I do need to apply myself a little more to this whole social media thing and establishing (and maintaining relationships with) an audience. And while it does sting to see someone else finding fame through pieces that are questionable in nature, there really is no finer form of flattery than to have someone try to reproduce what I create on the walls of this very blog.

Dancing with Madam Anger

I think I’ve made a mistake. In fact, scratch that. I know that I have. Somewhere along my journey towards becoming a better writer and quelling the demons that plague my mind I’ve turned myself from a bubbling cauldron of angst and anger into a fucking robot that is devoid of any emotion whatsoever. It’s where I always thought that I wanted to be; a head space where I feel no anger, fear, frustrations or disappointment. But unfortunately it seems as though it is all those things that make me the man and the writer that I am, and that I’ve always wanted to be. Recently I couldn’t help but notice that as my apathy for everyone and everything around me flourishes, my ability to write and create subsequently diminishes. Lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time to cast aside the whole sensitive new aged guy bullshit and start to embrace Madam Anger and all the wondrous gifts she bestows upon me.

The very concept of embracing the darker impulses of my heart does run incongruous to almost everything I have ever written on the walls of this blog. Yet over the past couple of weeks as I’ve risen at the crack of dawn only to stare at a perpetually blank page on my laptop, I’ve come to the startling realisation that I’m simply better off when I’m angry. As an emerging writer everything that I have ever produced has been dripping with passion and anguish, yet in my desire to overcome a battle with depression I deliberately removed all forms of these delicate muses from my psyche, leaving behind a barren wasteland where emotion and creativity once roamed.

I now understand that my mind is like a delicate ecosystem inhabited by every thought and human emotion that it creates. When all of these thoughts and emotions work in perfect harmony my mind flourishes and my writing follows suit. My urges and impulses form the sediment that allows everything to grow. And my thirst for knowledge forms beautiful saplings that pierce the surface of my mind and reach towards the sun. The sun itself is made up off all the positivity that I strive to produce on a daily basis. Then, in order to balance out my peacefulness, my darker thoughts are the heavy rains that lash across the landscape. But just like the rains that lash the earth, these sometimes torrential storms are a necessity for the ecosystem. Without the rains all creativity would die.

Which leads me to ask me what the fuck was I thinking when I tried to remove such an integral part of the ecosystem that is my mind? In hindsight I should have realised that everything in life must be balanced; that without sunshine and rain working in relative unison, everything would fall apart. I took away the negative rains of my mind, and allowed the overpowering rays of positivity to rape the earth until all that remained was scorched and uninhabitable. Then, when the land was devoid of life I stood in the damaged sediment and wondered just why nothing could be created there.

So, without further ado; here comes the fucking rain.

At first thick droplets fall around me, splashing against the scorched earth, their individual strength unable to penetrate a crust as hard as this. But then, as the rains fall harder and I goad my mind for more, a figure materialises through the storm clouds in the distance. She moves closer, gliding across the earth’s surface with a step as delicate as her fine features. Madam Anger has arrived to aid me through this storm. We stand in relative silence, watching the rain falling around us before she invites me to dance. So I take her and hold her close and we move to the orchestra of thunder crashing loudly overhead. We sway and waltz, our movements always in time with the rise and fall of the orchestra’s crescendos, allowing the rains of anger and frustration to wash over us before falling to the desperately thirsty earth.

Our footsteps crack the earth’s surface, and the raindrops slip inside. And before I can stop and gasp, the first inklings of saplings arrive. So we dance around in circles, leaving behind a trail of fresh footprints teeming with new life. And after what feels like hours of dancing, I can now see that my mind shall survive. But the rains begin to pass, and soon the storm subsides. I stop now and stare out at all that Madam Anger has created, and release her from my grasp. She sweeps her hair behind her ear and smiles at me through crooked teeth. The once beautiful apparition that danced until life returned has faded; replaced now by her true form as a hideous hunch backed dame. I stand and watch her fade away, chasing the storm from my mind. Before I turn towards the earth with wonder and behold all that Madam Anger has left behind.

The idea here is not to return to my days of never ending anger and angst. But rather to embrace the idea that I can control the darker impulses of my mind and use them to fuel the creative fires of my soul. I don’t want to be angry anymore. That part of me is gone. But I’m also very aware that without Madam Anger I would never be able to write or continue to grow as a man. I’m throwing caution to the wind and abandoning my quest to turn myself into an emotionless robot. Instead from now on I have vowed to feel all that my life has to offer. Anger, angst, love, success or failure; my writing and my life needs all of these and more to survive. I understand now that within the microcosm that is man there is a macrocosm of emotions that we must experience in order to feel alive. So before I dance off into the sunset with Madam Anger once more, I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that I will be in touch again soon.

Hands on the table where I can see them…

There’s nothing quite like waking yourself up at the crack of dawn to write, only to find that your brain has decided to take the day off and left you struggling with a severe case of writer’s block. The empty page stares up at you from the computer screen, almost mocking you as you fail to fill it with anything of substance.

-That’s me today. I’m honestly struggling. For some reason unbeknownst to me, my head has decided that it just doesn’t want to write. So what do I do? Well my initial thought was to take the morning off and go back to bed, but then I thought, fuck it. I’ll just push a little harder and see what I come up with. Sometimes all you need to break out of a rut is to change tact and try and hit your problems from a new angle. So with that said, it’s time for one of those awkward put your hands on the table where I can see them while I press my linguistic gun to your head and spit my own misguided rhetoric at you moments…

Creativity is dead. Actually, let me retract that and try again. Creativity is a bloated aging whore that has been beaten and battered to the point of total exhaustion. She lies in a state of semi-consciousness on a threadbare mattress in a shit-fight of a room awaiting a knight in shining armour to come and cease her terrible suffering. As she lies with her ear propped against the wall, she can hear into the next room. Sounds of debauchery fill her ears as her younger counterpart uniformity is bent over and fucked by every so called artist vying to make it big.

Sounds vulgar doesn’t it? Well it should. For this is the state of our creative industries nowadays. Once upon a time artists were revered for their talents; they were praised for their abilities to weave intricate tales of romance and affection, ruin and woe. But now, in our ever¬-evolving society we have shifted our focus away from devouring and worshiping originality and focused instead on producing easily palatable artworks that fall in line with our preconceived idea that everything must have an expiry date of five minutes. We focus more intently on the misguided antics of the artist than what they are actually producing – and we do this because what they produce is more often than not mind-numbingly shit.

It really is a sad state of affairs, especially for someone like me, who is looking at breaking into the elusive world of publishing. A writer/artist used to strive to create a truly unique tale in order to secure a book deal or the likes, yet now it seems as though the key to finding success is to duplicate the works of your predecessors as closely as possible without being labelled a fraud. A long time ago a man by the name of Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch proposed the idea that there were only seven basic conflicts in literature. Quiller-Couch proposed that from these seven conflicts a talented writer would be able to construct an endless myriad of unique ideas and produce a story worthy of acclaim. The wordsmith’s conflicts were as follows:

1. Man against man.
2. Man against nature.
3. Man against himself.
4. Man against God.
5. Man against society.
6. Man caught in the middle.
7. Man and woman.

Yet somewhere along the way, literature and society lost its way and lost sight of the meaning behind Quiller-Couch’s list. The list was originally intended as a foundation upon which a writer can build, however more and more increasingly it seems as though writers are quite literally limiting themselves to the brief bullet points on this list. Imagination and creativity are no longer valuable commodities in our society.

We used to worship the new and unexpected. We used to praise an artist who was willing to push the boundaries of their craft in an effort to develop something truly unique. Now however, we seem content to consume second rate shit and scorn the notion of a truly beautiful, truly unique piece of work. Something needs to change. Writers need to stop patronising their readers and actually dig deep and create something worthwhile rather than continuing to spew forth the dribble filling bookstore shelves. And readers in turn need to stop being so willing to digest the bullshit flooding best seller’s lists and instead venture deeper into the world of literature and start sifting out those wondrous novels sitting dormant on shelves just waiting to be discovered.

And there we have it. Rant over, my negativity has been voiced and you are free to take your hands off the table. Stand up, stretch out your legs, and try just for one moment to take what I have said into account before you eventually come to the realisation that I’m nothing more than a narcissist suffering from delusions of grandeur. Try to read something new and exciting rather than reaching for the tried, true and downright fucking boring. I’ll be in touch again soon…

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